What is Floorcraft?

Very often people say: "Music is the Master", meaning we have to follow the music. So, if the music is very energetic, we should dance in a very energetic way, for example. But there is one thing that can be even more important than the music when it comes to how we dance.

How crowded is the floor? Sometimes it is impossible to truly follow the music when we dance, because if we did, it would be mayhem on the floor.

We need to adapt to our surroundings and all the couples around us. We have to make sure what we do is suitable for the environment. This is what floorcraft is about - to make sure dancing is enjoyable and safe for everyone. Even if I mainly dance kizomba, kizomba fusion, salsa and bachata, this text is adapted to fit for pretty much any dance. 

This is an excerpt from one of my books - "The Secrets of Social Dance - How to Become a Popular Dancer" which you can find on Amazon.

Floorcraft is the art of adapting your dance to what your surroundings permit, the dance floor and the other couples around you. Imagine a huge flat parking lot with a lot of cars driving around, and no arrows or lines to direct them. Without any lanes or rules how to drive, and where to stop, we would have to take a lot of care not to crash into the cars driving around us.

It is the same on the dance floor. No laws are governing how we move on the dance floor. The police will not come and get you. But there are some rules, and learning how to keep an eye on the surroundings and adapting what we do to how other couples move around can keep us and the couples around us safe.

Most of this is just common sense. But you see quite a lot of common "nonsense" on the dance floors. I admit, I dance more kizomba and kizomba fusion now than anything else. But I dance salsa and bachata too, and I think it exists in many different dance scenes. You see a lot of lousy floorcraft. And you rarely see classes or courses with floorcraft. This text is an attempt at fixing some of the problems.

Spot Dances & Progressive Dances

No matter their other differences, similarities or origins, in the social dancing world, you can divide all dances into two main categories:

  • Spot Dances
  • Progressive Dances

The spot dances are danced either primarily in a line, forward and back, or moving around more circularly, but mostly in the same spot. Examples of spot dances are Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, Semba, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing etc. Progressive dances are danced moving around the room counter-clockwise, in what is called the "line of dance". When dancing on smaller dance floors, progressive dances can become impossible, as some of them are specifically developed for large ballrooms. Examples of progressive dances are Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Waltz etc.

Of course, whether it is a progressive dance, or a spot dance will influence the floorcraft a lot, even if there are also many similar rules.

Common Rules

There are some rules on the dance floor that are valid for both types of dances:

  • Beginners have priority. More experienced dancers have more control and are more able to adapt to their surroundings. Therefore, they have more responsibility. But since we can never know anyone's level for sure, we cannot just assume the couples around us are all more advanced and not give a damn ourselves. We should all try to look out for each other.
  • Everyone has the right to space on the dance floor, no matter their level. But the only space that is "yours" is what is just under you and your partner.
  • Don't invade another couple's space. They "own" the space they are in. Make sure you respect that. Only when they move away are you free to use it.
  • Look before you send your partner into a new spot. Other couples might have eyes on the same place. Make sure it is free.
  • Never try to complete a pattern if it could result in a collision or even invading someone else's space.
  • When dancing on small or more crowded floors, use a compact frame and small steps.
  • Don't extend your arms or throw arms or legs out to the side, especially on more crowded floors. Remember, your space is only what is under you.
  • Don't do tricks on the social floor. When I talk about tricks, it is when the follow has one or both feet above knee level, or when her waist is below mid-thigh level. In general, tricks don't belong on the social dance floor. Tricks are for show. Tricks are more for other dancers to see. Very often they require much more space than what regular dancing requires. And they usually come unexpectedly, so couples around you are not prepared for them. Tricks on the floor have never really injured me, but I have gotten some elbows, some heels into my leg, some kicks in the back etc. It wasn't great for me. And am very sure it felt bad for the ladies, because they were not at fault. They felt guilty, but it was the guy who tried to do the trick. The only time you could potentially try to do tricks on a social floor is if you are alone, or if there are several meters to the next couple, and you are sure there is no one else around. Still, it is a bad idea, unless you have the 360-degree vision of a chameleon. Couples are coming and going on the dance floor. People move around all the time, so you'd better be sure of what you are doing.
  • If you want to practice a move, move off the dance floor.
  • Don't try to push or squeeze yourself between other dancers.
  • If the dance floor is too packed, be smart and wait for the next dance.
  • A lead must always protect a follow against collisions. She should never be placed in a position where she can get hurt.
  • Don't ever enter the dance floor with your back first. Always look forward to where you walk.
  • In general, don't walk across the dance floor if people are dancing, unless there is clearly enough space for you to pass. The more movement in the dance on the floor, the stricter this rule applies. Walk around to that super dance spot you see on the other side, if the floor is full. In some dances, this is even stricter, and the rule would be "don't walk across the dance floor if people are dancing" period.
  • Never bring food or drinks onto the dance floor. You can spill it on people, and you can spill it on the floor. Clothes can be stained. Shoes can be ruined. And people can even slide and fall.
  • Check the floor and check your partner's shoes. Pick your steps according to what is suitable for both. Spinning on floors where you can't slide/glide at all are bad. And on super-slippery floors, avoid huge steps and multi-spins. It can be embarrassing to fall, and not very enjoyable to be constantly worried about it.

Rules for Progressive Dances

Besides the common rules, in the progressive dances, there are some more rules:

  • Keep moving forward. Don't stop too suddenly. If you need to stop, move out of the line of dance.
  • The outside lane of the line of dance is used by the more experienced dancers, travelling more quickly around the floor.
  • The inside lane of the line of dance is used more by less experienced dancers who often move a bit more slowly.
  • And the centre, or inner circle can be used more by beginners who want to practice their basics or spot steps. They should stay out of the line of dance completely.
  • Avoid changing lanes too often.
  • Don't travel through the centre.
  • Do not travel backwards against the line of dance, except for one or two steps, after first checking the traffic.
  • Avoid overtaking. If someone in front of you holds you up, try to do some rocking or hesitation steps, waiting until the travel starts again. Don't try to push through. If you need to continue to maintain flow, move to the next lane if you see an opening.
  • Don't stress other couples, staying too close behind them.
  • If you want to make a spot pattern, move to the centre floor, and then move back into the line of dance when you see an opening. But, avoid doing this too often.
  • If you dance a progressive dance, but the dance floor is too small to allow for travelling, don't try to move around on the dance floor. Instead, try to convert the dance into a spot dance and move around in your space.
  • Don't enter into the line of dance unless it is clear, just like you don't enter a highway unless you see it is clear for you to do so.

Rules for Spot Dances

Besides the common rules, in the spot dances, the first thing you need to do is decide where you want to dance. Try to find a spot where there is an opening, with enough space to establish your own dance spot. Don't invade someone else's spot. In addition to this:

  • Don't drift around on the floor.
  • Don't drift into another couple’s space.
  • Don't drift in behind another lead, even if it seems to be empty. You are not expected to be there, so there can be collisions. Leave enough space for at least a few steps.
  • If there is already an orientation on the dance floor, try to adapt to that orientation. This is valid for more linear dances

So there you have it. Some rules to make dancing safe and enjoyable for everyone! If you like it, feel free to share!

See you on the dance floor!


This is an excerpt from one of my books - "The Secrets of Social Dance - How to Become a Popular Dancer" which you can find on Amazon.

Suggestion - Check the kizomba, fusion, musicality and follow technique courses here


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